2018 has been our most successful season of all at Driftwood! We celebrated our 10th year of opening the garden and our 7th year of trialling products from Thompson & Morgan. There were a couple of trips to Buckingham Palace too, in recognition for the charity fundraising we have achieved, our running total to date in excess of £114,000, with almost £20,000 raised in 2018 alone. Add this to the coverage in a national newspaper in August, a short film of the garden on BBC SE Today the same month and a feature in an American garden magazine back in April, not bad at all.
This season my top 5 stand out products from Thompson & Morgan, much commented on by many of our 2000 visitors, were as follows:
- Thunbergia Arizona Collection.
I chose to plant mine all in one large pot and these vigorous climbers produced masses of blooms from late June through to the present day. Each bloom has a characteristic black centre that gives Thunbergia its common name of Black-Eyed Susan. As they are tender climbers, I plan to transfer mine to the heated greenhouse for the winter and see if I can get them to grow as well in 2019. They were very quick growing, covering the ornamental tower I placed in the pot, reaching over 6 feet tall. Visitors loved the impact they made at the side of my folly fireplace.
- Blechnum Volcano.
I’ve got a small Dicksonia tree fern but was enthralled by images of the dwarf Brazilian tree fern. I’d certainly agree that Blechnum brasiliensis ‘Volcano’ is an exciting new find for the home gardener. These compact plants lend themselves well to growing in patio pots. The young fronds unfurl in a bronze volcanic hue turning a shiny green as they open. We’re told that over time the fern will form a small trunk, growing to around 30cm tall in 10 years. I’ve got a bit of time to wait then but nonetheless visitors have been impressed with its look, sat in a pot immediately in front of a dicksonia. It is a perfect for giving an exotic touch to your garden. We’re told it is hardy enough to be grown in most UK gardens but I’ll be protecting mine over winter, either in the conservatory or heated greenhouse.
- Calendula Power Daisy Orange.
I bought some of the yellow Power Daisies a few years ago and found them very good so this summer decided to try the Calendula ‘Power Daisy Orange’. As the claim states, this astonishing English pot marigold didn’t burn out mid-season. Their bright orange blooms have just keep coming, still flowering at the end of September in my seaside garden. I’ve found that it’s neat, spreading habit makes it a perfect choice for filling containers with many its orange daisy-like blooms The great bonus is that they rarely need deadheading. Many visitors have spotted them burning like a bright star amongst the dense and intense planting here at Driftwood, where this summer, we had over 300 different containers.
- Alstroemeria Indian Summer.
What is not to love about the beautifully coloured flowers of Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ with their unique rich, bronze foliage. These hardy Peruvian Lilies are compact with an upright habit, ensuring that stems are still a good length for cutting. I’ve got some in the ground and some in a large patio container. Back in August, the container of plugs I bought this season took centre stage, when the BBC interviewed me about my garden for a short film shown on TV, on how I and the garden had coped with the incessant heat this summer. They deliberately chose this spot as the flowers looked so stunning. I’m still amazed by how many visitors are not familiar with them and ask what they are.
- Coprosma repens ‘Pacific Sunset’.
I saw this plant a garden show this summer and jotted down the name. I knew I had to have some in the garden next season. True to its description, from a distance Coprosma repens ‘Pacific Sunset’ appears vibrant coral pink. On closer inspection the leaves are glossy red, edged with chocolate brown. A wonderful bonus is that it is evergreen, proving vivid colour all year round. It also has a low-growing, rounded habit, which makes it perfect to go in containers in my garden, not that we get too many frosts here but just want to make sure it will survive. I’m told Coprosma is undemanding and needs little attention and a superb choice for coastal locations, next year will tell. My three had just arrived and are awaiting planting but they are sure to be a hit with next years visitors.
So, there we have it, my top 5 from Thompson & Morgan this season.
You can read more of Geoff’s garden at www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden, featured on Gardeners’ World on BBC TV and finalist in Gardeners’ World Magazine Garden of the Year 2016, he’s raised £164,500 for various charities in 12 years, £109,000 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Publicity Officer for the National Garden Scheme in East & Mid Sussex. In 2023, Geoff was also crowned one of the 500 Coronation Champions.